InterManager, the international trade association for in-house and third party ship managers, has spoken of its concern at the ‘discriminatory attitude’ displayed towards seafarers during cases of criminalisation.
Addressing delegates at today’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting at the IMO in London, InterManager Secretary General Elect Kuba Szymanski demanded to know: “Why should a seafarer be treated differently and penalised for acts that have nothing to do with criminal negligence?”
InterManager, which was represented by a delegation of six representatives, told the meeting: “InterManager believes these practices have an extremely damaging and dangerous effect on the shipping industry.” They pointed out that the criminalisation of seafarers directly contrasts with the STW Sub-Committee’s call to ship owners, managers and flag states to do more to encourage young people to consider a career at sea and to work harder to retain existing seafarers.
“To suppose that professional seafarers can be detained without trial is a disproportionate response not justified in maritime law and totally at odds with such responses in all other professions, where an unintentional incident is treated as such and does not lead to criminal sanctions. Seafarers continue to be penalised for acts that have nothing to do with criminal negligence.”
“InterManager would like to appeal to the honourable delegates to raise this issue at home and make the difference now – seafarers are not guilty unless proven so,” he concluded.
Global union federation the ITF and international ship managers’ association InterManager signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that encourages them to work together on areas such as maritime safety, training, and preventing the criminalisation of seafarers.
The understanding was signed by InterManager Secretary General Guy Morel and ITF Seafarers’ Section Secretary Jon Whitlow.
The MOU identifies a significant overlap in the goals and objectives of the two organisations in the field of shipping’s human element. It also recognises the potential benefits of greater cooperation in areas such as: criminalisation and the fair treatment of seafarers; the promotion of social communication onboard ships; meeting the aspirations of young seafarers; promotion of a safety culture onboard ships; ensuring that manning agencies meet the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention; improving the image and reality of the industry; simplification of the documentation required to be carried by ships; crew/officer training, attraction and retention; and improving accommodation standards.
Guy Morel commented: “Today’s signing reflects our focus on the care for our seafarers and our belief that, with better liaison and co-operation, we can minimise unnecessary duplication of effort, improve efficiency and enhance our impact. We have already seen what can be achieved when the industry unites on issues such as criminalisation and piracy, and we hope to build on those lessons.”
Jon Whitlow added: “This is a positive step towards developing closer ties on matters of common interest with international bodies representing ship owners and operators. We hope that searching for common ground and improving communications and liaison will result in a more powerful united voice on industry issues.”
The past two years have seen a number of occasions when organisations across the shipping industry have come together to speak out on issues such as piracy and the unfair criminalisation of seafarers. The ITF has previously signed an MOU with INTERTANKO.
Seafarer health must be made a priority to tackle the rising tide of obesity among seafarers
warns the International Maritime Medical Association, which represents health professionals from throughout the shipping industry.
“The ocean is a very dangerous place and only truly fit Able Bodied Seamen should be allowed on board,” warns Michael van Hall, IMMA President.
Concern is growing at the rise of obesity levels among crew. The Norwegian Centre for Maritime Medicine recently revealed that it withdrew the health certificates of more than 500 overweight seafarers last year. Mr van Hall commented: “It seems that the general epidemic of obesity in Western Countries has hit the maritime sector too. It is the job of the shipowner or manager to make sure that sailors are fed a nutritious, non-fattening diet and have good exercise programs available on board.”
Mr van Hall recalled: “I have heard of instances in American screening clinics where a fire extinguisher (weighing 53 lbs) has been put in the hands of an extra heavy sailor before medical staff have asked him to rapidly climb two staircases. This brings fitness into sharp focus because in an emergency fire fighting is everybody’s job on board.
“Weight issues and physical fitness are matters of extreme importance in the maritime world and we must act now to ensure that seafarers are given every support to maintain a healthy weight,” he urged.
Shortages of skilled and qualified seafarers could have an immense impact on the global economy and are being exacerbated by the negative impact of crew criminalisation and the escalating problem of global piracy, warns InterManager, the international trade association for the ship management industry whose members represent more than 200,000 seafarers.
“Legislative measures following an accident or incident have made the seafarer increasingly susceptible to criminalisation, and a rising incidence of piracy has led to correspondingly high personal risks,” Brian Martis, Chairman of the InterManager’s Criminalisation Committee told delegates at today’s India Manning & Training Conference in Mumbai.
In addition, “A one-sided view of public interest coupled with political expediency has severely curtailed the human rights of the seafarer,” he said. “These factors have had a direct, negative impact on crew retention and the natural replenishment of the work-force: potential recruits are hesitant to take up a career at sea. The current shortage of skilled and qualified seafarers – already a significant crisis in the maritime industry – is further exacerbated.”
He continued: “Shipping being the prime mover of goods worldwide (90% of trade), is critical to international commerce and development. The seafarer is critical to shipping. There is already a crisis in marine manpower supply with shortages estimated to continue for some years to come. The legislations in recent years concerning pollution and the restrictions on personal freedom as a result of the ‘War on Terror’ have combined to make seafaring unattractive. Retention and fresh recruitment are directly affected. The eventual impact the global economy and the environment cannot be underestimated.”
Mr Martis pointed out that recent studies by BIMCO have identified 14 cases of seafarers’ detainment that took place during an 11 year period involving 12 coastal states. These cases involved lengthy detainments and “questionable” applications of law and resulted in no charges.
He cautioned: “The unfair treatment meted out to the officers concerned resonates very strongly with the seafaring community both locally and internationally. A sea-going career with such additional risks to personal freedom and/or safety dissuades young men and women who are about to decide their future careers. I know of several officers who have indicated they will discourage their children from taking up a career at sea.”
InterManager has played an instrumental role in a number of high-profile cases of criminalisation recently including the Hebei Spirit and the Cormorant.
Mr Martis informed conference delegates that recent cases have shown a marked tendency for seafarers to be:
• criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents beyond their control
• criminally prosecuted for maritime accidents where there has been some negligence, regardless of the fact that such negligence is not considered criminal in the maritime industry
• detained indefinitely within the country that is bringing charges against them
• held as “security” or “material witnesses” till the ship owner or P&I Club pays up
• held in custody without any access to legal assistance or without being formally convicted of a criminal offence
• denied shore leave for arbitrary reasons
Urging the shipping world to tackle the issue of unfair criminalisation, Mr Martis proposed: “2010 is the Year of the Seafarer and what better way to pay homage than to contribute towards improving his working conditions and protecting his human rights?”
Cory Logistics is currently concluding a three-month project to transfer steel manufacturing plant from Sheffield in the heart of the UK, to India.
The company, part of Braemar Shipping Services plc, will transport 140 feu container loads and some 4,500 freight tonnes of break bulk cargo from UK ports Felixstowe and Hull to Chennai.
To tackle the large task, Cory Logistics has put together a dedicated team of transport, freight and chartering staff to oversee the transfer of the steel softener and de-scaler line’ from a redundant Sheffield Steel Mill to its new home in India. Further machinery is set to be moved later this spring.
Mark Harding, Cory Commercial Director, explained: “We are fortunate to have all the capabilities under one roof to handle a cargo this large. Although the planning has been complex and challenging, having a dedicated team on the task has enabled us to offer a competitive advantage.”
Over the past few months Cory, working jointly with Canadian SCAC, has shipped the 140 containers through Felixstowe. The 4,500 tonnes of break bulk cargo was first transferred to Hull. With oversized, individual pieces of more than 12 metres in length, up to 5 metres wide and weighing more than 30 tonnes, the Cory team has to plan its movement in relation to UK road restrictions.
As the first phase of this project draws to a close the cargo will soon ship from Hull to Chennai. Phase two of the project is due to start in May when Cory Logistics will move other steel production line machinery from the redundant Sheffield mill on behalf of the India-based buyer.